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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I would like to engage the chairman, Mr. Young, in a colloquy if he will so engage.

Mr. Chairman, I commend you and your committee for your hard work putting together this bill. The efforts by your committee and your staff to provide our warfighters with the tools they need to keep our Nation secure are our first priority, and I thank you for your service doing just that.

I applaud your work also to mitigate risk associated with shrinking budgets. I believe this bill shows your leadership to make the tough decisions to fund our Department of Defense at the appropriate levels even during this time of fiscal austerity.

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CONAWAY. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. I want to thank him very much for the comment.

Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to thank you specifically for your work addressing the wasteful pursuit by the Department--specifically the Navy--to stand up an alternative energy industry. These efforts go against the primary mission of the Department and are a colossal waste of taxpayer money, especially as we are scrubbing every penny inside the Pentagon.

The Navy claims that its pursuit of a green fuel source that is produced in the United States would help protect it from price shocks and volatility within the oil markets. I have yet to hear an argument that supports how spending, on average, $26 a gallon for biofuels would protect our fuel budgets when we could be paying $3.60 a gallon. This argument simply doesn't add up.

Prices, Mr. Chairman, would have to rise eightfold for this equation to work.

The Navy claims that development of biofuels will limit the number of deaths associated with fuel convoys in theater. Yet, this is a specious argument. Convoys will still be needed to haul biofuels across dangerous areas to supply our needs, just like conventional fuels. And if they're less efficient, more convoys would in all likelihood be needed.

The Navy also claims that buying biofuels and sailing their Green Fleet will end up saving American taxpayer dollars and ultimately lead our military to energy independence. Throughout hearings in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, witnesses failed to offer any verifiable analysis that shows the costs of achieving this goal or when these goals can be achieved.

Mr. Chairman, time and time again, with this current administration we've seen instances of shortsighted, unrealistic expectations like this and its sister project, Solyndra, at the Department of Energy where venture capitalists are making a fortune off frivolous spending of taxpayer dollars on projects that belong in the private sector.

The Department of Defense should be in the business of prosecuting wars and keeping this country safe, not wasting dollars on the pursuit of green fuel. I would argue that Department leaders should focus on buying the cheapest most readily available fueling which keeps our ships steaming and our planes flying.

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CONAWAY. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Thank you for yielding.

I appreciate the gentleman's attention to this matter, and I support his efforts to prioritize spending within the Defense Department. I look forward to working with him to ensure that our scarce defense dollars are spent in a responsible manner, and I thank the gentleman for raising this issue.

Mr. CONAWAY. I thank the gentleman, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, everyone in this House would sleep much easier at night if our airplanes flew on sunbeams and our ships steamed on rainbows, but they don't. They use diesel, and diesel they must have if they are to continue to protect this Nation.

I rise today in strong support of this amendment to lift the restrictions on the military's procurement of alternative fuels enshrined in section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act. I would also like to thank my colleagues, Mr. Flores and Mr. Hensarling, for their work with me on this issue.

Section 526 prohibits the military from purchasing alternative fuel products that have ``life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions''--that's a mouthful--that are ``less than or equal to such emissions from conventional fuel.'' Mr. Chair, this prohibition makes no sense to me.

Several months ago, Secretary of the Navy Mabus said:

Our dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuel is rife with danger for our Nation, and it would be irresponsible to continue it. Paying for spikes in oil prices means we may have less money to spend on readiness, which includes procurement. We could be using that money for more hardware and more platforms.

If protecting fuel supply lines and avoiding price volatility are truly the goals of the military--and I do believe that these are worthy objectives--then lifting the restrictions imposed by section 526 should be a no-brainer.

Section 526 puts technology like coal-to-liquids, gas-to-liquids, oil shale, and oil sands out of reach for the United States military. These technologies are capable of meeting the Department's objectives for safeguarding production and reducing price volatility, and in most cases are far more advanced than the exotic biofuels project that the Navy is currently pursuing.

This amendment will offer us a stark choice: The military can meet its strategic fuel supply concerns or operational planning can take a backseat to environmental posturing.

Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will spend their time talking about how dirty fuel derived from coal-to-liquids or oil sand technology is. They will offer up and knock down straw men dealing with global warming and carbon footprints. But what they will not talk about is the critical need for our Department of Defense to procure the cheapest, most readily available fuel that fulfils its strategic requirements.

I offer my full-throated endorsement for the Department's work to increase its energy efficiency, to reduce the need for fuel convoys, and to limit vulnerabilities in the fuel supply chain. However, those aren't the issues that we're dealing with with this amendment. The question this amendment asks is: Is it appropriate for Congress to continue to prohibit the military from purchasing certain domestically available synthetic fuels?

The Department of Defense's singular objective is to protect this Nation. Department of Defense leaders have made it clear that foreign sources of oil and price volatility present an obstacle to fulfilling that obligation. Lifting the restrictions contained in section 526 will free the military to utilize any technology it believes can help to confront that danger.

I urge my colleagues to join me to lift this irresponsible prohibition and provide the military with the options it needs to manage the long-term, strategic risks facing our Nation.

I thank my good friend for offering this amendment, and I look forward to its passage.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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